Skin of the eye
20 May - 8 July 2023
WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present Skin of the eye, a solo exhibition by Maja Marx.
The book lay on her lap. She realized that for more than five minutes she had been looking at the porousness of the paper, the crease at the corner of page 17 which someone had folded over as a mark. She brushed her hand over its skin.
– Ondaatje, The English Patient
one must… send it through itself
by pushing or pulling
the fingers through the wrist.
– M M
with reference to Michel Serres
For some time now it has been known—as a result of various interesting ophthalmological experiments done by certain ingenious scientists, authoritative observers that they are—that the image of exterior objects imprinted upon the retina of the eye are conserved there indefinitely. The organ of vision contains a particular substance, retinal purple, on which is imprinted in their exact form these images. They have even been perfectly reconstituted when the eye, after death, is removed and soaked in an alum bath.
– Verne, Les Fréres Kip
Standing on the bare ground, – my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space…
I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is a kind of optics, this living with some things very close and in terrible focus, and some things opaque and very, very far away.
– Edmund de Waal
“the cylinder of the neck . . . the circles of the head, the eyes . . . the triangle of the nose . . . the line connecting the sight with the object seen…the ornament that forms between the body and the outer world.”
– Oskar Schlemmer
I was in the room, or rather I was not yet in the room since she was not aware of my presence. …
– Proust Remembrance of Things Past
The eyes are the organic prototype of philosophy. Their enigma is that they not only can see but are also able to see themselves seeing. This gives them a prominence among the body’s cognitive organs. A good part of philosophical thinking is actually only eye reflex, eye dialectic, seeing-oneself-see.
– Peter Sloterdijk
… the eyes want to caress.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Skin of the eye is a collection of work produced during a year of contemplation following the passing of my brother. The act of painting provided a space for intense contemplation. These works give testimony to the change in perception that I experienced during this time – if I see things differently, do I, in turn create things differently? How do I process the haunting presence of the image of the person that is no longer? How do I do this in a language that is visual, but does not fixate on preserving a particular moment in time? How do I use painting to facilitate a process of relinquishment? How does abstraction facilitate this process of dissolution?
On a most basic level, it involves a radical proximity of contemplation; painting from an almost blinding nearness to the surface – the surface becomes a hyper-activated skin ‘caressed’ to a point of ecstatic atomization. Here, contemplation and gesture merge into an overlay of conversations and memories, with the surface humming to a palimpsest of double-takes and reworkings of the stratified marks beneath.
The “skin of the eye” imagines the eye as affecting the surface upon which it rests. It imagines the eye as something that touches, and that, in turn, can feel – and be touched. These surfaces are residual objects, borne from a process of contemplation – a yearlong ‘staring out’. Similar to the trace left in the place where a stone or object had rested, like an indentation on the ground, they give testimony to the weight of the eyes that had been fixed on them for an extended period of time. The weight of that stare has now lifted, its touch has passed, and the canvas remembers its presence; its extreme up-closeness. And its looking away.